Monson finally able to recruit like the others

Brett Angel

When Dan Monson hit the road the morning of July 8, it marked a new beginning for Minnesota’s men’s basketball program.

Not to mention a long-awaited end.

July 8 was the first day of the 2003 NCAA basketball recruiting season. It was also the first time in four years at Minnesota that Monson and his coaching staff were allowed to recruit players without restrictions imposed on the program stemming from a 1999 academic scandal.

“In some ways, it represents the beginning of Dan Monson’s career (at Minnesota),” Minnesota Athletics Director Joel Maturi said. “I don’t know if people understand the difficulties he faced and still faces.”

Since investigations in March 1999 revealed former athletics tutor Jan Gangelhoff wrote 400 papers for at least 18 players over a six-year span, Minnesota’s men’s basketball team has been hamstrung by a series of recruiting regulations.

Following penalties handed out by the University and the NCAA, Minnesota forfeited 40 percent of its allotted recruiting days during summer evaluation periods each of the past four years.

When allowed to recruit, the men’s basketball staff had been allowed just two coaches on the road at a time compared to three for other programs.

The 20-day evaluation period ran from July 8-17 and again from July 22-31.

“Basically, our recruiting opportunities had been cut in half,” Monson said, pointing out his staff was essentially allowed 28 total evaluation days each year compared to 60 for other schools.

“The one thing I don’t want to do is make excuses. You still have a job to do and you have to do it under the guidelines that are set for us. But the fact is it’s been a more challenging thing to do here at Minnesota versus other schools.”

The Gophers will still be limited to a maximum of 12 players on their roster (compared to 13) and will lose one scholarship during the upcoming season. As an institution, the University will remain on probation until Oct. 1, 2006.

But as far as recruiting goes, Minnesota coaches will finally be back on a level playing field.

Monson realizes most critics and fans of his team don’t truly understand the disadvantages that came with the regulations his program had to deal with. But being held to the same standard as everyone else, he feels, is a testament to the job his staff has done.

“That’s been our job – to make sure the whole state of Minnesota basketball was not crippled because of these sanctions,” Monson said. “In that regard, I take it as a compliment that we got through this without it being something that everybody saw each time we stepped on the court.”

Although the Gophers have been criticized in recent years for their inability to land many of the state’s top-tier basketball prospects, they were able to convince Rick Rickert, Adam Boone and most recently Kris Humphries – all Minnesota natives – to commit to the program.

And they did so despite being able to invite a severely limited number of recruits for official campus visits, another penalty imposed on the team since 1999.

Jeff Hagen, a senior projected to start in the Gophers frontcourt this season, decided to attend Minnesota three years ago despite not being offered a scholarship or invited for an official visit.

“I knew this was where I wanted to be,” Hagen said. “But I had the time of my life on my official visits (to other schools). Those visits are what really sell players.”

Beginning this year, the Gophers will be allowed to grant the standard 12 official visits to players of their choice. That number had been reduced to six since 1999.

Brett Angel welcomes comments at [email protected]